Monday, February 28, 2011

MG BOOK REVIEW: The Mother-Daughter Book Club #1 and #4

Heather Vogel Frederick has written a wonderful series of books for middle grade/young teen girls.

I bought the first book in the series, The Mother-Daughter Book Club, for my daughter a few years ago. I confess that when I saw it in the store I was smitten with the idea of the title. Part of me hoped that my daughter would fall for it and we would be trotting off to a mother-daughter book club of our own. Well, that wasn’t going to happen. Nevertheless, I was happy with the outcome of the purchase: she loved the book. (We were going through a phase where books I suggested were dismissed out of hand.) Now, she was telling me to read the book!

It went on my pile, but, I’m sorry to say, I didn’t immediately follow through on her endorsement. (Like daughter like mother.) Even though she eagerly read each new instalment, it took awhile for me to pick up book number one. But I did get to it.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club is a delightful story following the trials and tribulations of four girls and their mothers during a middle school year. Although not all the best of friends at the start, they grow on one another, bound together by the book club and their discussions of Little Women. The references to that classic were interesting and didn’t overwhelm the modern day tale. Each of the girls had social and/or home problems that girls today can relate to. There was a "mean" girl they had to struggle against and eventually find a way to accommodate. In short, it was a strongly written contemporary tween girl friendship book with a nice literary twist.

I can appreciate the appeal of these books and was very pleased that my daughter gobbled up the series, especially because it called her attention to the books "assigned" in the book club. We’d already read Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, but in book 3 of the series, Dear Pen Pal, the girls tackle Daddy-Long-Legs. This was a cherished favorite of my own teen years, and I was thrilled to see my daughter reading it – and loving it. That inspired me to reread it and enjoy it all over again.

Still, I didn’t keep reading the series. I’m not the target audience; my daughter is. Although I appreciate the writing, the characters, and a story well-told, at my stage in life, there is only so much fictional contemporary teen angst I can empathize with.

Until we come to the latest book in the series: Pies and Prejudice. The book club members are growing up. It is now their first year in high school. They each have adjustments to make. The greatest change is that Emma and her family will be spending a year in England. In honor of this, the club chooses to read Pride and Prejudice.

After reading this, my daughter wanted to read Austen’s book, so we started it together. I’ve read it before, but it’s been many years, and I’d forgotten just how intricate and beautiful the language is. So much of it is dialogue and the humor sneaks up on you. It is pure pleasure having our own mini book club. And as we read, my daughter told me I should read Pies and Prejudice because the author did such a good job of basing the characters on Darcy and Mr. Collins. So, breaking my hard-and-fast rule about reading series in order, I skipped to book four.

In Pies and Prejudice, Emma’s mother has arranged a house swap with a British family. The two teenage boys who come to live in her home remind the other girls of Darcy and Bingley. In England, Emma meets a boy who is the very image of Mr. Collins. The girls adapt to a whole new set of challenges and enjoy new adventures while learning some Austeneque universal truths.

Once again, I have to praise Heather Vogel Frederick for creating such likable girls to build a story illustrating the power of friendship. Wrapping it all around works like Daddy-Long-Legs or Pride and Prejudice is a wonderful way of introducing young readers to these classics.

3 comments:

  1. First & foremost, I admire the bookish relationship you have with your daughter. That's wonderful to hear! As for the series, I've heard of it, but as you mentioned, the appeal is more towards younger girls & I too feel beyond that stage of the game. Still, I might just try book #1 & see for myself. Thanks for the nice review :)

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  2. That sounds like a lovely series and it's great that it's led you to read books together. My mum was my biggest reading inspiration growing up and I think it's wonderful for your daughter that she can have the same.

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